Although most of the stoves on the market are non-catalytic, some of the most popular high-end stoves use catalytic combustion. They are slightly more complicated to operate which lends itself to those who like technology and are willing to maintain the stove properly to keep it at peak performance.
Non-catalytic (non-cats) stoves have firebox insulation, a large baffle to produce longer, hotter gas flows, and pre-heated combustion air introduced through small holes above the fuel in the firebox that create a good environment for complete combustion. Non-cats produce a lower heat output than that of catalytic stoves. Internal parts need to be replaced regularly as they deteriorate with the high heat.
In catalytic combustion the smoky exhaust is passed through a coated ceramic honeycomb inside the stove where the smoke gases and particles ignite and burn. Catalytic stoves are capable of producing a long, even heat output.
All catalytic stoves have a lever-operated catalyst bypass damper, which is opened for starting and reloading. The catalytic honeycomb degrades over time and must be replaced, but its durability is largely in the hands of the stove user. The catalyst can last more than six seasons if the stove is used properly; but if the stove is over-fired, garbage is burned and regular cleaning and maintenance are not done, the catalyst may break down in as little as 2 years. (EPA note: Garbage should never be burned in a wood stove or fireplace.)